Friday, July 16, 2004
This is something I have been working on for some time. It's really ridiculous, so if this blog of mine happens to have any readers, and you guys actually flame me, no hard feelings. However, for the record, this is highly copyrighted, and if occasion comes, I WILL sue.
So, enjoy. And if there are any takers for the story, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you. Have a nice day.
Do you believe in fairy tales?
You know, the ones that begin with “Once upon a time…”, features drop-dead-and-up-again princesses with beautiful Sunsilk hair and tiaras, dragons, a wicked witch or two, and end with handsome, stylish princes with beautiful bone structure, whisking them on white horses (always white, honey) into the beautiful sunset? Remember those Disney movies that dug millions out of the pockets of the movie-watching public? Or even those classic Malay or Chinese folklore that scare little innocent kids out of eating their parents’ favourite foods, because then said parent would run away and get eaten by a stone (see: Batu Belah Batu Bertangkup, which would make a fantastic Hollywood movie)?
I was a Disney cable addict (you know, Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella repeatedly watched on Astro), all the way until I turned sixteen and realized that I was the only girl among my friends who have never, ever on the face of this earth, had a boyfriend. I basically put two and two together, and figured out that my stubborn belief in Disney-ish love stories had something to do with it. By the end of my stint as a sixteen-year-old, I was still trying to make up my mind about whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. I mean, I was ostensibly single, for reasons unknown to mankind, but at least I wasn’t going out with a new guy every other week, which is what is considered a relationship, amongst my peers. Yeah. Times really have improved. NOT.
Welcome to the life of a lonely, socially-awkward and impossibly precocious teenager. This is my story, the story of a young girl who is naïve, (somewhat) sweet and (somewhat) smart. I say somewhat, because, you know, I am a Malaysian, and if you sound too sure of yourself here, you’re branded as a stuck-up little twit behind your back. Not that we’re all a malicious lot – just very fast to make prejudices. Well, this story is nothing interesting, honestly. It’s not something that would be featured in Great Britain’s Daily Mail, neither is it Pulitzer Prize material, but I hope that my wit would be enough to make up for whatever that’s lacking in the sensation or literature department. I think that I am a very humorous person. Sadly, it runs in the family, and big brother Azhar, who has better comic timing, thinks that I stink. But he’s only my older brother, so let’s ignore him like I do 90% of the time. Hey, this is my story after all.
My name is Azrah Dania Soo. I was sixteen when this whole tale started. I had just finished my Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (only the world’s hardest exams, for you lucky ones who are not in the know), and I had nothing to do for roughly for six months of that new year, thanks to the recent implementation of National Service. I had to wait for that period of time as my ‘lucky, fortunate’ randomly-selected peers endured physical agony and mental torture before university classes would begin. I had skipped a year in school thanks to one of the Government’s brainchildren, and was exempted. For that year, at least. Yet I was beginning to feel the urge to voluntarily go anyway -- that’s how bored I was.
To use one of the local terms, I was a ‘penganggur’, which basically means ‘lazy useless bum’ in Malay. I had settled into an arduous routine by the end of December, which went as follows:
9.00 am – Wake up and stretch and maybe shower if I can get out of bed
1.00 pm – Have breakfast in front of the Oprah Winfrey show (again, on Astro)
2.00 – 6.00 pm – TV and reading time
7.00 pm -- Dinner
9.00 pm – Primetime television on cable
1.00 am – Sleep
Simply exciting, no?
Luckily, I had a partner in crime. My twin brother, Azrai, also shared my schedule, only his day started an hour later and ended two hours earlier. In between us, we managed to fit in our mother’s every bidding as well. She’s pretty good at managing the three of us, including my father. I guess she learnt it from her father, who was a member of the police force. From what I know from my mother’s stories, he was a fun-loving, ass-kicking, lace-up, button-down neat freak kind of guy (my words, not hers). He died way back when, before Mama met Papa. I think that I would’ve liked him very much. He probably would’ve taught my father better Malay, in exchange for Cantonese lessons from Papa, who is Chinese. It just seems like something he would do.
Anyway, Azrai is my best friend in the whole world. He tried to discourage me from writing this book, though. He’s very self-conscious, and he finally relented after I swore on our tortoise’s life that I would not degrade him (severely) and that his characterisation would (somewhat) stay true to the original. I’m telling you, it’s all about what you put in the brackets. Which reminds me, I should probably get back to the story.
Well, when this tale started, he was helping me to do Pilates according to the instructions in the latest Seventeen magazine I had just bought. As far as I had heard, Pilates was fun, and I needed to shed (what kind of term is that?) whatever kilograms I had gained after two months of slacking in a house with a constantly-stocked fridge (my father believes in grocery therapy – I say, whatever makes him happy).
I was so clueless.
“Azrah,” my brother scolded me, “stop moving around so much! You’re supposed to lie with your back flat on the ground like a papan lapis! And you’re supposed to inhale, not exhale. Suck in your gut!”
“Rai,” I panted, “you are not the boss of me. Come on lah, cut me some slack. This is pure torture! I don’t know how those stars in Hollywood can do it! Why am I doing this again?” By this, I meant lying on the floor with my chin brought to my chest, my feet perpendicular to the floor, held up by Azrai, trying my best to bring my navel to my spine. You think it sounds so easy? Try it yourself.
He stared at me incredulously. “Entahlah, Az. Maybe it’s because you’re stupid, and I am not. Also, can it be because, oh, I don’t know, you wanted a six-pack?”
“I want a flat stomach, not a bulging abdomen hard enough to rest a coffee table on, thanks. This hurts!” I moaned.
“No pain, no gain,” he said in his best Schwarzenegger accent. “I heard that puh-lah-taste, or whatever those Hollywood ah pia’s call it, is supposed to hurt. So you’re on the right track.” He is disdainful of Hollywood, Bollywood, and people who do not recognize Bruce Lee’s wonderful screams as a form of art. Like they say, you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick who you’re born with.
Just as I was getting the hang of things, in spite of my badly hurting stomach, the phone rang. I felt my feet hit the floor in a sickening thud as my makeshift gym instructor ran for the phone. “I’ll get it!” he screamed to me. No kidding.
I was starting to relish feeling my toes again when he called, “It’s for you, Az.”
“Put it on the cordless; I am in pain,” I moaned, milking sympathy.
“It’s at the repairman’s. Come get it yourself.” Either there is no thing as twin telepathy, or he was just emotionally devoid. I had to struggle to get to my feet, and I groaned loudly as I walked to the extension in my parent’s room.
“Hurry up, it’s a long-distance call from your boyfriend, Mr. Orlando Bloom.”
“Ha-ha. Get lost.” He shrugged and tapped his watch, which could only mean one thing. Aishu Shankar.
“Machi, why did you message me on the hand phone?” greeted my painful efforts.
“That’s a nice alternative to plain old ‘hello’. What did I tell you about phone etiquette?”
“Keep the mouthpiece three inches away for minimal spittage?”
“That, and greet like any normal person would.”
“I thought you celebrated nonconformity. You know, Jordan Kane thinks that being different is a wonderful thing. Quote and unquote.”
“Yeah, he would,” I replied dreamily. Jordan Kane was a rising young actor who had started out in the business since he was six. He had starred in many critically-acclaimed movies, such as We Don’t Belong, Tom Sawyer Abroad and The End. He was, at the time of this fateful conversation, gracing the silver screen with his magnetic aqua eyes and mysterious smile in a new movie, Catcher Spin, a tale about a tortured youth who is subjected to serve his country at war, only to find that he is on the wrong side of the battle. I had seen the movie like ten times already, on pirated VCD (I am stingy, period) and in the cinema. He was young, handsome, sensitive and deep, which made him on top of my ever-changing Top 10 Guys list. I am a seasonal admirer, which means I admire any male protagonist in a promising movie at certain periods, more commonly during the peak of their career so far. There was Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, and I even went through a Hayden Christensen phase during Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and then I dropped him because he was as natural an actor as a store mannequin. But this season, it was all about Jordan.
“Yeah, yeah. Come back to Earth for a moment, okay?” My best friend interrupted a quick daydream I had that involved me and a very smitten Jordan Kane. I drift around a lot. It makes studying for exams extremely arduous. “Should I remind you of the odds stacked against you in meeting dashing Kane? They’re like ten million to one. No, make it point seven two quadrillion. Plus, darling, he is extremely short and not all that cute. Just very interesting. Artistically driven, and emotionally sensitive. Other than that, he’s like another of our classmates.”
“Hey, if you can think that Shah Rukh Khan, who is a husband and father of two, is the love of your life, I can dream all I want, okay? And please don’t compare him to our guys! They are the sort that would fit in a mamak stall with a live football match on large screen TV, not that there’s anything wrong with watching an Arsenal game or two. Now, Jordan is the poetic, non-violent sort, I imagine. ”
“Azrah! I need to use the phone, cik kak! Zaleha is calling!” Azrai called from the next room.
“Aiya, Aishu. Rai needs the phone to talk to his darling usyuk-anga.”
“Aw, isn’t that the cutest thing? Tell him that I think is so adorable that they are so lovey-dovey.”
“Hey Rai? Ashu thinks – “
“Tell her I don’t give five sen what she thinks and that she better hang up now!”
Aishu was laughing hysterically. I heard her sigh with restrained laughter. “It always gets to him, innit?”
“Innit? Where’d you get that expression from, akka?”
“Sue Townsend. Considering I have been doing nothing but read morbid fiction all month, it’s surprising I haven’t started talking like Dickens.” She sighed heavily. “You know, my parents are overprotective bordering on insane at this point. They think that if I get the slightest permission to even step out of the house, I am going to pull a Rajan and run amuck.” Rajan was a rather infamous classmate of ours, who is pretty wild. Wild and suave (I am sticking two fingers down my throat in a gesture of mock ill-feeling). According to the nearest gossip-mongers available, he had been seen in the arms of three different girls in two nights the last weekend. Given his disgusting self-opinion as being a Lover and his beer gut from actually drinking beer, either his companions were blind or my four sources were.
“Who are they mistaking you for? You are a Drew Barrymore archetype in Never Been Kissed. As if you could become near as revolting as Rajan is,” I said. Azrai stepped into the room and raised an eyebrow. I love it when he does that. Someday I fully intend to put a mirror in front of him when he’s doing it and see if I can’t help that I burst out laughing every single time, just like I did at that point.
“Heard you two talk about Drew Barrymore,” he said. “If you want to mourn over Aishu’s pet dog’s death or something, that’s perfectly fine. It isn’t perfectly fine to keep Zaleha from calling me on purpose.”
“Heard that, Aishu? He thinks we’re being mean on purpose.”
“Ya, I heard that. Since when, I have to ask?” she chuckled. “I guess I have to go anyway. My grandmother is trying to make Big Ben eat his medicine.”
I sympathized with Mrs Shankar. Big Ben was named so because he was, well, big. He is this huge Great Dane Aishu had since he was a little puppy, and now he’s a large, scaredy-cat dog with some appetite, that enjoys watching Baywatch reruns when he can. “What’s wrong with Big Ben?”
“He ate too much grass from the garden and now he has constipation. Oh, that sounds bad.” No kidding. I heard loud moans in the background. “Az, I think my grandma’s in trouble lah. Talk to you later, okay? Tell Azrai I said, ‘Who cares?’”
“Will do. Bye machi.” I hung up and explained to Rai, “Big Ben has constipation.”
“You don’t say. It’s only to be expected, since he swallowed Drew Barrymore, from what I know,” he remarked dryly. He picked up the phone, held it to his chest and said, “I need a hand phone and you, Azrah, need a life.” Suddenly, it rang and he jumped a foot in the air.
“Astaghfirullahalazim,” he muttered, picking up the phone. “Hello? Hi, Michelle, long time so see. Or talk, if you have to be politically correct. What? Hey, cuz, slow down, what did you say? No, Uncle Leow is not on a diet, far as I know. Yes, I heard that Aunty Amy is flying over to see you tomorrow. No, Uncle Leow is not on a diet; I saw him swallowing an ice-cream sandwich whole the other day he was here. No, he is not – who told you this? He is not on the Watkins’s – okay, whatever, Atkins’ diet. He is not – no, he is not killing himself by eating junk food; how can anyone die of junk food consumption? Oh, your hamster did? But I thought he died because you forgot to feed it?”
I listened incredulously to the conversation my brother was having. Michelle Soo is our cousin from our father’s side. Her father, my Uncle Leow, is Papa’s older brother. She was working as a talent agent for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. The agency where she worked, Renee and Renee, had a clientele which consisted of Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer and one of my eternal favourites, Jake Gyllenhall, among others. All that after graduating summa cum laude from Princeton University. She was even getting married to the company’s heir, William ‘Billy’ Renee. Life was in love with her, though at that point, she sounded a little bit paranoid. It runs in the family, and from my experience, it sounded like she hadn’t taken her dosage of Prozac that day. Which explained the call. She never called us, not unless she is in the country and needs to drop by to borrow our toilet, to which we constantly say “Sure”. What else can you say? “No, we don’t like you using our loo roll?” Very likely.
“You know, you want to talk to Azrah? She’s right here.” He shoved me the phone quickly, even though I tried to push it back to him. We struggled a little and my foot somehow landed on his face, and his elbow had lodged itself in my gut. Finally, I took the receiver with certain trepidation. “Hi, Michelle, how are you?”
It sounded like she had been talking for a while and hadn’t really heard me greet her. “… You know, my Daddy is probably killing himself on all that junk food. I told him that too much golf would make his appetite abnormally huge. Hasn’t he ever heard of how things like cardiac arrest happen? I mean, he promised me that he would start eating healthily, and then Deborah, my idiot big sister told me that he is starving himself, and I worry myself for nothing, because if he dies of starvation, who’s going to walk me down the aisle? He can’t live without bread, my Daddy can’t, and when I heard that my sister had talked to him and told me that he wanted to give Atkins’ a shot, I knew he would suffer, and then how can he enjoy the wedding, and – “
“Whoa, Michelle, slow down, you’re faster than Superman as a speeding bullet. Is this about the wedding?”
“No.” Sniffle. Pause. Snort. “Yes!!! It is!” she wailed. “Bill is undecided over the colour scheme for our wedding! All he can say is, ‘Oh, honey, I’m sure I’ll love anything you pick out, I trust you,’ and most women would love to have a guy put that much confidence in his fiancée, but this is driving me mad! What if he doesn’t like the colour I pick out? What then? What if he thinks I made a bad choice? What if he thinks that by choosing a terrible colour, I am not his soul mate? And say for instance that I should fret to him, what then? He might think that I am an emotionally-dependant woman, or that I am so indecisive, I will make a terrible mother for his children! He does want to have kids, and so do I, you know. That’s very brave of him.” Double sniffle.
I couldn’t help saying out loud that it didn’t matter if he decided not to, because my aunt and uncle would live with them until they did produce offspring, if they ever insinuated their not wanting children. Chinese people take the issue of posterity very seriously.
She said, calmly enough, “I know, but you know for a New Yorker -- no, an American male in his early thirties -- that is incredibly brave and sentimentally sweet of him.”
“Um, not that I mean to butt into your business or anything, but I thought you were going to do a Western sort of wedding? You know, the bride-in-virginal-white-gown thing, and all. Doesn’t that make your job much easier? I thought you just chose white all the time.”
In front of me, Azrai shook his head at my apparent ignorance. Nice of him to think so, after he shoved our distraught cousin in my face, literally. He had feigned disinterest a few moments before, but had been cued in on the look on my face that something telenovella-worthy was happening, so he listened in. Hang sibling love.
“Just white, you say? Just white? Yeah, so I thought too, but there are 52 shades of white, apparently, no thanks to stupid artistic types like Salvador Dali. So with that, Azrah tell me, how can I ever choose the right shade?” she moaned. I bit my lip. I was sure she wouldn’t appreciate the answer I had in mind, which was began with ‘eenie meanie miney…’
“Um, Michelle, there is not much I can do at the moment, what with a whole ocean and several countries between us, but can tell you this: breathe. Breathe in, breathe out. Inhale, exhale.” I heard gusts of wind on the other end. “Breathe in, 2,3,4, and out, 6,7,8, that’s good… Clear your mind … It is an empty space… you are calm and confident. Repeat it to yourself. I am calm and confident.” Azrai had started laughing softly. I faintly heard some mumblings on her end. “Calm now?” I ventured.
“Mm-hm. I’m calm. There’s still the whole colour thing, though. The wedding is in a month and I still haven’t chosen the colour and the whole theme surrounds the colour scheme and just help me, will you?” she said distractedly.
“Oh, right. William’s null on the subject, is he?”
“He’s in Hollywood on a crisis. Al, you know, um, Mr. Pacino, is asking for this role in a new psycho thriller that Billy’d given to Gyllenhall, so there has been a conflict of interest.”
“Oh.” As my brained processed this bizarre situation, I said, “You know, most women would kill to gain that sort of trust from their spouses, you said so yourself.”
“I know. I’m lucky. But I’m worried some day that he will wake up one day and think, ‘What have I done?’” I had wondered the same thing over the last fifteen minutes, but again, I couldn’t say it out loud.
“You know, this is what I call pre-nuptial stress,” I said seriously. My twin laughed unrestrainedly. I glared at him and continued, “Everybody asks themselves that question at some point or other within a month of their big day. I mean, he is probably asking the same thing himself.” Azrai started rolling hysterically on the floor, holding his stomach. I heard Michelle starting to breathe short, panicked pants. “Um, I mean, it’s only normal to wonder. This is a big decision, and you know you want to make the right one. But you know what? I think you’ve both made the best decisions of your lives.” Azrai guffawed. I shoved a foot into his gut to shut him up.
“Oh. Thanks, Az, that’s such a sweet thing to say. I feel much better now.” I could tell. She had started to breathe normally again, like she had taken her Prozac in between almost having a nervous breakdown over the phone and my mini yoga lesson.
As she proclaimed her undying gratitude to me once more and we said our goodbyes, I noticed that my twin had sobered up and was staring amusedly at me.
“Why were you shaking your head like that just now?” I asked him as soon as I hung up. “You know, for my twin, you sure are no help.”
“We’re fraternal,” he said nonchalantly. “We aren’t nature’s clones. We’re merely two foetuses that happened to share the same water sac and got out at the same time. And I got out first. So if you don’t mind, Frasier Crane, I would like to use the phone.”
As I left the room, I heard him say to the receiver, “Hi Zal cayang, how are you? I missed you too, anja.” I had to laugh loudly at that one.
this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 5:50 pm
Saturday, July 10, 2004
there are lots of things in this world to appreciate.
i can be ultimately shallow and add "Daniel Radcliffe's face" to the list, but i know that this will be in public view, so no. but there's lots of stuff... really. maybe i should organize this in random order or something:-
1. the random (friendly) smile you get from a stanger who's walking past
2. kissing a gurgling baby's belly (i am NOT Michael Jackson)
3. reading a good book, meaning a book that my naive brain can actually understand, and had sufficient interest to finish
4. listening to Michael Buble sing a love song that can never be remade by the Backstreet Boys
5. hearing a guy call you his "Princess" (not that this has actually happened to me. it's inspired by this ultra-romantic guy i know. jiwang... but i'm still waiting...)
6. hearing (or receiving an e-mail) from an old, long-lost friend
7. receiving a text message that makes you laugh
8. okay. fine. watching Daniel Radcliffe on television (which is as close as i'm gonna get to the real thing)
9. looking around you and finding people who -- even if they don't like you or merely tolerate you in the name of family -- love you.
10. waking up to the sound of my alarm clock. right. actually, waking up after a long night's uninterrupted sleep.
11. receiving a bouquet of flowers from a guy you hate, even if you're allergic to them (again, not based on life experience)
12. reading a too-cute short love story
13. listening to the thunder, watching the lightning, smelling the rain, during a storm
14. doing all these things, and remembering to thank the Big Guy Up There that he gave you a chance to do so
this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 5:10 pm